|MadSci Network: Genetics|
Most models of eye inheritance postulate that there are 3 genes involved in eye color determination and that brown eyes are dominant while blue eyes are recessive so that if one has an allele (a version of a gene ) that determines brown eyes that person will have brown eyes. To have blue eyes you must have two blue eye alleles. It is possible for 2 brown eyed people (both carrying the recessive blue eye allele) to have blue-eyed children. In fact it is not rare. It is also possible for blue eyed alleles to be carried for several generations without having blue eyed people until 2 people with blue eyed alleles marry. It is not thought that eye color affects vision unless one has no eye pigmentation such as albinos in which case they do have visual problems. I have included additional information about eye genetics from a website affiliated with Oregon public schools: http://www.seps.org/cvoracle/ hope this helps, gabriel vargas md/phd Eye color is a physical trait that is genetically determined. A favorite pastime for many expectant parents is documenting the eye color of grandparents and extended family members to attempt to predict the eye color of their baby. Any discussion of the inheritance of eye color, requires a review of genetics. In basic terms, eye color is determined by the amount of a pigment called melanin that is in the iris of the eye. Brown eyes have lots of pigment, blue eyes very little. The amount of pigment is determined by a number of genes controlling pigment production. Generally speaking, brown is dominant, meaning that if one parent has brown eyes and the other has blue eyes, the baby will most likely have brown eyes. But the situation is really much more complicated than that. For a more complete description, read on. What is a gene and what does it have to do with eye color?Humans have a diploid number of 46 chromosomes (23 pair) located in the cell nucleus. In the process called meiosis, sperm and egg cells are produced that have the haploid number (23) of chromosomes. During fertilization of the egg by the sperm the diploid number of 46 is restored. During the course of pregnancy, the fertilized egg (zygote) undergoes a complex series of changes including multiple cell divisions and differentiation of cells into the different organ systems. The result is a baby whose cells each have 46 chromosomes. One chromosome of each pair is inherited from the baby's father and the other from the mother. A gene is a length of DNA on a chromosome that does something particular for an organism. It is the basic unit of heredity, determining the observable characteristics, or phenotype, of an individual. The actual genetic makeup of an individual is referred to as its genotype. Genes are arranged in a linear fashion on the chromosome, much like beads on a string. The arrangement of genes along a chromosome is the same for both members of a chromosome pair. Therefore genes also occur in pairs. If genes occur in pairs are both genes alike?Genes may occur in different forms called alleles so the appearance of any characteristic is dependent on the types of alleles present. A person who carries two of the same alleles is called homozygous for that gene. If two different alleles are present the person is heterozygous for that gene. In a heterozygous gene pair, one allele may be expressed over the other. The allele that is expressed is called the dominant allele. The allele that is not expressed is called the recessive allele. Dominance and recessiveness refer to which allele is expressed when the two occur together. There is nothing abnormal or defective implied in the terms. Examples of dominant/recessive inheritance are many of the famous genetic experiments conducted by Gregor Mendel. Mendel bred pea plants and found that crosses between homozygous purple flower plants and homozygous white flower plants always produced plants with purple flowers. In the process of incomplete dominance, a heterozygous gene pair produces a characteristic that is intermediate between the characteristic produced by the homozygous condition of each allele. An example of this occurs when a red snapdragon is crossed with a white one resulting in a plant with pink flowers. In a third process called codominance, the affect of each allele is expressed simultaneously. An example of codominance is the human AB blood group system in which a person with an A allele and a B allele will have type AB blood. I have heard that a single pair of genes determines what color my eyes are. Is this true?At one time scientists thought that a single gene pair, in a dominant/recessive inheritance pattern, controlled human eye color. The allele for brown eyes was considered dominant over the allele for blue eyes. The genetic basis for eye color is actually far more complex. At the present, three gene pairs controlling human eye color are known. Two of the gene pairs occur on chromosome pair 15 and one occurs on chromosome pair 19. The bey 2 gene, on chromosome 15, has a brown and a blue allele. A second gene, located on chromosome 19 (the gey gene) has a blue and a green allele. A third gene, bey 1, located on chromosome 15, is a central brown eye color gene. Geneticists have designed a model using the bey 2 and gey gene pairs that explains the inheritance of blue, green and brown eyes. In this model the bey 2 gene has a brown and a blue allele. The brown allele is always dominant over the blue allele so even if a person is heterozygous (one brown and one blue allele) for the bey 2 gene on chromosome 15 the brown allele will be expressed. The gey gene also has two alleles, one green and one blue. The green allele is dominant to the blue allele on either chromosome but is recessive to the brown allele on chromosome 15. This means that there is a dominance order among the two gene pairs. If a person has a brown allele on chromosome 15 and all other alleles are blue or green the person will have brown eyes. If there is a green allele on chromosome 19 and the rest of the alleles are blue, eye color will be green. Blue eyes will occur only if all four alleles are for blue eyes. This model explains the inheritance of blue, brown and green eyes but cannot account for gray, hazel or multiple shades of brown, blue, green and gray eyes. It cannot explain how two blue-eyed parents can produce a brown-eyed child or how eye color can change over time. This suggests that there are other genes, yet to be discovered, that determine eye color or that modify the expression of the known eye color genes. How does a gene, a section of a chromosome in the cell nucleus, make my eyes a particular color?The exact color of the human eye is determined by the amount of a single pigment called melanin that is present in the iris of the eye. Melanin is a dark brown pigment that is deposited on the front surface of the iris. If a lot of melanin is present, the eye will appear brown or even black. If very little melanin is present the iris appears blue. Intermediate amounts of melanin produces gray, green, hazel or varying shades of brown. Genes work by directing the production of enzymes, chemicals that control all of the processes that occur in our body. Eye color genes, through the enzymes they produce, direct the amount and placement of melanin in the iris. Newborn babies all have blue eyes because at the time of birth they haven't begun to produce melanin in their irises. A baby's eyes may change to green, brown or other colors as melanin production begins. Albinos have no pigment in their irises so the blood vessels in the back of the eye reflect light making the eyes look pink. Albinos also lack melanin in their skin and hair. Since albinism is caused by a recessive allele, two normal parents may produce an albino. An albino can have normal offspring if the other parent is normal for melanin production. Where can I find out more about human genetics? The following WEB sites provide more information about human eye color genetics and other human genetics topics. Eye Color by OMIM, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man: http://www3.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/htbin-post/Omim/dispmim?227240 Human Eye Color Genes by Athro Ltd.: http://www.athro.com/evo/gen/genefr2.html Eye Color Genetics by the Franklin Institute Online: http://sln.fi.edu/tfi/units/life/forums/anatomy/eyes.html Anatomy by the Franklin Institute Online: http://sln.fi.edu/tfi/units/life/forums/anatomy/anatomy.html Human Genetics in the On-Line
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